Finding the Causes of Autoimmune Thyroid Diseases

Finding the Causes of Autoimmune Thyroid Diseases

The autoimmune thyroid diseases (AITD) Graves’ disease (GD) and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (HT) are the most common of all autoimmune diseases. They are complex diseases, caused by interactions between susceptibility genes and environmental triggers that are not fully understood.

Yaron Tomer, M.D., and Mihaela Stefan-Lifshitz, Ph.D., have received a three-year, $1.2 million National Institutes of Health grant to uncover the genetic and environmental determinants of AITD, which now can only be treated symptomatically (hormone replacement in HT or hormone suppression in GD). In previous work, Dr. Tomer and colleagues mapped and confirmed several AITD-related genes and shown that interform alpha (which is produced during viral infections) is the key cytokine involved in triggering AITD. After identifying the genetic and environmental factors responsible for AITD, the researchers hope to develop effective AITD therapies that target those underlying factors.

Dr. Tomer is professor and chair of the department of medicine at Einstein and Montefiore, professor of microbiology   immunology, and the Anita and Jack Saltz Chair in Diabetes Research at Einstein. Dr. Stefan-Lifshitz is research associate professor in the department of medicine at Einstein. (1R01DK129664-01A1)

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